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The Bean Eaters

The Bean Eaters


by Gwendolyn Brooks

The Bean Eaters Theme of Old Age

Popular opinion says that once you reach a certain age, your life might as well be over. After all, what do old people have to contribute to society? They don't work. They don't produce children anymore. What do they do? That's precisely the sort of logic that allows society to forget an elderly couple, leaving them all on their own in a tiny rented room. Even though they may once have been mothers and fathers, friends and family, they're now abandoned. It's not too pretty, we have to say.

Questions About Old Age

  1. Do you think that the couple's standard of living has changed much over the years? How might this alter how you think of them?
  2. Does age make their situation better or worse? What in the text allows you to form your answer?
  3. Why do you think Brooks chose to focus her poem on people who are so old? Can you relate to them? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In their old age, this couple focuses mostly on the moment. They no longer have dreams or hopes of the future.

The couple may be old, but their actions are so ordinary that we can't help but relate to them.

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